The Death of Content Marketing

Many people have declared 2014 the year of content marketing. Which got us thinking. 12 months ago a lot of people were saying the same thing about real-time marketing. By responding instantly to pop culture events, they said, brands had an unprecedented opportunity to build a more immediate relationship with their fans.

Real-time marketing started off 2013 with a bang thanks to Oreo’s “tweet that won the Super Bowl.” During a chance blackout at the event, Oreo reassured everyone that they could still “dunk in the dark.” Many brands rushed forward to emulate its success, but almost all of them flopped. It turned out that people didn’t want to hear soap brands weighing in on the new Katy Perry album. It was just too weird. By the end of the year, people were calling real-time a myth.

Will content marketing also be dead next December? Probably not. Unlike real-time, people have been doing content marketing forever, they just didn’t have a name for it. (If you don’t believe me, look up Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Wikipedia—and prepare to be sad.) Most of the time, content marketers have succeeded when they followed a few simple rules:

Understand the objective. The idea of content marketing is not to gain the most eyeballs. Leave that to newspapers, magazines, and cable networks—they’ll do it way better than you. Content marketing means building a relationship with your customers. And especially your hard core fans.

Content is not a campaign. Relationships take work. You need to establish boundaries, provide value, and be ready for the bumps in the road. But most of all, you have to commit to making good content over the long haul.

Set the right expectations. Open any newspaper or magazine, and you’ll find it neatly divided into sections and departments. These sections appear in every issue and make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Similarly, brands need to engage customers in a regularized format they can understand. Software companies do well with educational materials, while Coke succeeds with a stream of cheery videos and other content. It all depends on how your audience wants to interact with your brand.

Listen. Obviously, listening is necessary in any good relationship. So make sure you have a good analytics strategy in place to understand what’s working or not. Also, don’t forget to let your fans have their voices heard. If you ask the right questions, you often can guide them to creating great content too.

Staff and budget accordingly. Many thought the Oreo tweet it was a spontaneous effort. Far from it. The brand had a large team that had worked on improving its processes for the better part of a year. Ditto with content. To succeed, you need to put a team in place that’s able to produce things that your customers will consistently enjoy over time.

Embrace failure. Not all content marketing efforts kick off to great success. Be ready for that. The important part is to learn what’s working and not. Iterate and improve. Your customers will thank you.

Oreo showed that you can do well with real-time marketing, so long as you commit the time and resources needed to understand it and do it right. Content marketing is similar. You have to stick with it and keep your eye on the goal: building a long-term relationship that matters.


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